India's batsmen cut a sorry figure in overcast conditions in their first warm-up tie ahead of the World Cup against New Zealand at the Kennington Oval on Saturday.
Doing the pitch report, former South Africa skipper Shaun Pollock had said: "It's cloudy and overcast, plenty of grass on the wicket." And India's score read 24/3 in the sixth over after Virat Kohli won the toss and decided to bat first. It was Ravindra Jadeja's 54 off 50 balls that helped India cross the 150-run mark before they folded for 179 in 39.2 overs shortly after Jadeja was dismissed.
In fact, after Shikhar Dhawan (2) and Rohit Sharma (2) were both dismissed by Trent Boult with beauties, the much spoken about No. 4 slot saw K.L. Rahul walk in to join skipper Kohli. With the score reading 10/2 in the fourth over and the world waiting to see Rahul work his magic, the batsman ended up playing on one from Boult in the sixth over.
The conditions were always expected to hold the key and former West Indies skipper Brian Lara had told IANS that the team which manages to adapt best to the conditions would be the favourites to lift the World Cup starting May 29 in England and Wales.
"It all depends on the weather conditions, and if the tracks are slow and dry, it will obviously help the spinners. But English weather is so unpredictable that you get a week of rain and you have green tracks. That is why I do like the Indian attack as they have got variety. They got good pace bowlers and spinners who can perform in any condition.
"It is hard to say what the conditions are going to be like, but I think the best performing team will win the World Cup and not the ones who will wait for the perfect conditions. India and England are the two favourites, and quite rightly so because of their performance," he said.
And the opening warm-up tie gave the Indian batsmen just the perfect opportunity to showcase their calibre in conditions which helped bowlers. But the batsmen were just not ready for the challenge.
While the jolt before the main tournament gets underway is better than facing the heat during the group games, the manner in which the trio of Rohit, Dhawan and Rahul got out will leave a lot for coach Ravi Shastri to ponder about.
Rohit was dismissed after a Boult delivery pitched in line and came back sharply to trap the opener right in front of the wicket. Dhawan's lack of footwork was once again on display as he edged an incoming delivery by Boult straight to the hands of wicketkeeper Tom Blundell. As for Rahul, the Kiwi pace spearhead decided that he had pitched enough deliveries in the driving zone and pitched one short to catch the batsman unaware.
Kohli too flattered to deceive with a 24-ball 18 as a ball from Colin de Grandhomme came in after pitching and sneaked in through the gap between the bat and the pad to give the Indian scorecard a sorry figure of 39/4 in the 11th over.
Hardik Pandya (30) did try to score some runs after he was promoted to number five, but his innings ended when he was caught behind by Blundell off James Neesham.
M.S. Dhoni also failed to rise to the challenge as his 42-ball 17 ended with Tim Southee getting the former India skipper. In the end, Jadeja used the long handle to good effect to ensure that the embarrassment was a tad bit less. He shared a 62-run stand for the ninth wicket with Kuldeep Yadav (19). He was dismissed by Lockie Ferguson thanks to an exceptional catch by Martin Guptill before the final wicket fell in the very next over.
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